CJI as Master of Roaster

Context:
  • The Supreme Court once again has upheld Chief Justice of India (CJI) as ‘Master of Roster’.
  • CJI is an individual judge and not the powerful collective of five senior-most judges of Supreme Court called the ‘Collegium’.
  • CJI has exclusive authority to allocate cases to fellow judges and is spokesperson of the court.
 
Recent SC Ruling
  • Court agreed with the submission of Attorney General that if allocation of cases and constitution of benches is given in multiple hands, it will lead to differences and hurdles in smooth distribution of work.
  • Role of Chief Justice: 
    • Though, Constitution is silent on role of Chief Justice, but judicial position in previous judgments of court on this topic was based on sound conventions and has developed healthy practice  over time.
    • As per these precedents and conventions, CJI is empowered to exercise leadership on the court, and in this role he is expected to be spokesperson and representative of judiciary in its dealings with executive, among others. CJI has authority and responsibility for administration of the apex court, which gives him ultimate authority for determining the distribution of judicial work load.
  • CJI being the first among equals:
    • The phrase is generally relatable to judicial function designed to emphasise fact that voices of members of particular bench, which may include ‘Chief Justice’, are given equal weight and that in deciding cases.
    • In such bench opinion of Chief Justice carries same weight and is no different from those of other members of the bench.
    • Thus, in given case, there is possibility that Chief Justice’s view may be minority view and in that eventuality, outcome of case may be what majority decides.
    • The word first in this this case signifies only fact that Chief Justice is the senior most judge of the court.

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